I’ve not been here

I’m aware that I’ve not written a blog in a good few weeks now. I’ve started a few – one about my choice to be vegan, one about death and rebirth and another about the connection to each other that I’ve sensed we’ve lost.

But none of them have felt right.

I’ve been asking myself why I haven’t been able to finish/share them.

Part of me knows that there’s a hesitation to be open about my recent experiences which are a bit ‘hippy dippy’ and unlike anything I’ve experienced before. Will you accept me? Will people think I’m crazy? Are these precious, new things right to share as they unfurl within me?

Another part of me doesn’t want to alienate anyone (or perhaps make anyone uncomfortable) in sharing why I don’t eat meat, dairy or any other animal products. Or my controversial (and privileged) views about how we should consume less and step into different ways of being that hurt the planet less.

I shy away from confrontation and I know that writing about these issues can trigger responses in people that are not comfortable for me. And they might reflect things about myself that I’m not comfortable with – my white, middle-class privilege, for example.

I’ve also been hibernating to nourish myself so I can be present for those I love who are going through hard times – a friend whose child is very sick and has been on the brink of death, friends going through relationship break-ups or those trying to cope with redundancies at the worst possible moments in their lives.

And I’ve been hibernating as I ask myself some fundamental questions about who I am, what I need from relationships and where I want to be focusing my energy and time.

I also feel a new chapter of my life start to emerge. One that is focused less on introspection – asking the big questions of myself and exploring my experience as a woman on this earth – and focused more on discovering (and creating) who I am in action and in the moment. 

So why am I sharing this with you?

Because I’ve been present on this blog, week in week out, for years now. And it doesn’t feel right to not be here without sharing why.

And because I sense this blog might change slightly in its focus (or I might even question whether it needs to be here at all going forward) and I needed to work this through out loud to you, my friend. To start planting the seed of ‘what is needed’ for me.

I’ve not been here, but I am still here.

So watch this space if you’re interested in what might come next.

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A note from myself in 2017

I found a piece of writing I did in 2017 – and thought I’d share it with you, my friend.

I hope it speaks to those of you who struggle with people pleasing and low self-worth…

You feed on the affirmation of other people; their praise, encouragement, confirmation of worth and you feel that this is enough to fed you. But in truth you’re starving – the fast-food, soul detracting opinion of others is not enough, not nearly enough to sustain you.

Yet, dear one, there is enough here within you – I have plenty to share from a source that will never know scarcity.

Inside is a banquet of love, joy, abundance, generosity, confidence, surety – if only you would stop bustling around collecting the scraps and crumbs from others, you would be able to stop, to rest, to feast on these delights.

All you need is to stop.

To turn your hearing inside and listen. To notice the beat of your heart, the beat of love, continually drumming for you.

Then you would go to things, join in with things, not to exchange your authenticity for acceptance, but merely to experience life.

You would pour yourself into experiences by wouldn’t be attached to the outcome for your worth would not be defined by it.

Your worth would be anchored in yourself and you would know how fully and extraordinarily worthy you are.

❤️

Sorry, not sorry

I’ve been reflecting over the past few days about the blogging I’ve been doing. And quite honestly I’ve been worried that I’m turning you off me by writing about things that are tricky and hard for me.

I’ve been stumbling through motherhood, grappling with who I am in this new world which seems to be turned on its head. I’ve been questioning who I am, what my purpose is, whether I’m in the right place.

There have been moments of lightness – when I reflect on Jenson or how far I’ve come. But moreso there have been shadowy dark posts where I pour out my uncertainty to you as I tentatively take steps forward into who I could become.

And I fear that this is too much. That I am too much.

I worry that you will think I’m breaking (I’m not). I fear that you will think I’m getting things wrong (which is very plausible in this new territory of my own personal development where I feel lost most of the time!). I’m confronted with my messiness, and that makes me feel uncomfortable.

But as I write this and get all my fears out in the open, I remind myself that I primarily write this blog for myself. It’s a safe, beautiful space where I can reflect, digest, process and come to my own conclusions about my experience.

Don’t get me wrong, I do think about you. I hope that you will find something of use in my words. I hope that the things I write will resonate with you, dear friend, and perhaps give you a new perspective on life. I hope that, in me sharing my own journey, you might feel less alone on yours.

And so I’m not going to hold back. I’m going to keep things real and continue writing what needs to be written for my own good.

Sorry, not sorry 😜

How I broke up with my phone…or didn’t

I shared a few months ago that I was reading a book called ‘how to break up with your phone’. It provided a 30 day challenge to get rid of the habits I disliked about how I used my phone (over-checking it and reducing the 3 hours + that I find myself spending on it each day).

It was a really useful and thought provoking exercise to go through, one which has changed my relationship with my phone…but I still find myself on it a lot. And at the moment that’s ok.

I’ve got a 14 week old baby and a lot of the time I find myself trapped on the sofa under him as he’s sleeping. Reading a book or magazine is impractical when I find myself in this situation as the movement of turning the pages wakes him up and is not very comfortable for me. So I look at my phone. I catch up with friends on WhatsApp, write on my blog (as I’m doing now!), plan my trips abroad…and that’s ok.

This is a time where I have to come to peace with looking at my phone more than usual to keep my sanity.

But I have recognised the unhealthy aspects of my phone use and the book has really helped with that. I’ve realised how I mostly look at my phone when I feel awkward in social situations or to distract myself from uncomfortable feelings like anxiety, boredom or stress instead of dealing with them.

And with this awareness comes an ability to choose. Do I really want to use my phone to avoid tough feelings or can I sit with them until they vanish or instead reach out to someone.

So I haven’t broken up with my phone completely, but I have started to redefine my relationship with it and that is exactly what I needed to do.

My supply

So before I start getting into this properly, I want to put a big caveat on this post – I’m talking about breast milk and all the things I’ve done to increase my supply so if it’s not your thing, please feel free to stop here.

I also want to caveat that I don’t think that breastfeeding is the be all and end all. Some mums make their choice to bottle feed and if that’s your choice, good for you! I just knew that I wanted to breastfeed from the moment I got pregnant and have continued to want to do so despite being faced with some challenges. Especially because Jenson will rely on breastfeeding to have immunity from disease when we’re travelling in Cambodia and Vietnam in June. Yes, breastfeeding has some great benefits – supporting your baby to get over sickness quickly, the beauty of relaxing while your baby is slowly feeding, not having to faff with sterilisation, supporting your body to return to its pre-baby state. But it’s a personal choice and I support anyone to do what is best for them whether it’s the bottle or boob.

I’m hoping to write this to partly come to terms with what has been a really hard journey and also to put my experience out into the ether to hopefully help other new mums who want to persevere and keep on feeding their babies if things get tough.

And for a lot of people it does get tough. I think I heard that less than 10% of mums are breastfeeding when their babies are 3 months old. It is challenging – a skill you and your baby are having to co-learn when you’re at your most vulnerable and exhausted. And it takes the perfect cocktail of hormones for the milk let-down reflex to be triggered and for your baby to latch on properly.

I wasn’t told that it could get tough before I had Jenson but I wish I had been.

Why was it hard?

Breastfeeding didn’t get off to the best start for me. Jenson was tongue-tied (as I’ve shared before with you, dear friend) and while he was able to latch on, he didn’t feed effectively. This meant he was either feeding, sleeping or crying for the first three weeks and didn’t put on much weight. He didn’t drop into a danger zone but went from being in the top 75% of babies, weight-wise, to being in the bottom 9%.

And since he wasn’t latched on properly, my milk didn’t come in properly.

It wasn’t that the tongue-tie was undetected. It was picked up straight away but the protocol at the hospital where I had him was to not treat it unless it proved to be problematic. But the pity is that when it was apparent that this was the problem, the damage had already been done. To my milk supply and to Jenson’s weight which is only just starting to pick up 13 weeks into his life.

I don’t know for sure this was the problem. But I do know that it might have been the problem and I wish that I had spoken up more to the doctor who brushed off my concern and didn’t give me the option to treat it when I asked about the condition.

There were other issues at play too which impacted my milk supply – severe blood loss in labour, being treated with lots of IV fluid, anaemia, perhaps not resting enough when he was born…

So I don’t know why it was hard, all I know is that it was and has continued to be hard.

What I do

Since it became apparent that breastfeeding was an issue, I’ve done a number of things to increase my supply including:

Supplements

I take brewers yeast, blessed thistle, goat’s rue, fenugreek and marshmallow root supplements three times a day with food. I’m not going to lie, it’s a lot, both in volume and in cost. I probably spend £30 a month in supplements but think I’d spend even more on formula if I was using it so I’ve come to terms with this.

Medication

I’ve been prescribed medication by the GP which is used to treat nausea/vomiting but has the side effect of increasing lactation. If you’re struggling, speak to your GP to see what help they can give you.

Food

I eat oats every day – porridge for breakfast and a flapjack whenever I can for a snack. I also sprinkle savoury meals with nutritional yeast which is meant to be good for milk supply.

I don’t drink alcohol (it can decrease milk production by 30% for the few hours following drinking alcohol) and have boosted my water intake as much as I can. I can’t wait to have a G&T but it’s not worth it at the moment for me.

Peppermint and sage can decrease milk so I also try to avoid these. Instead of peppermint tea, I have a new Mother’s tea that my friend bought me.

I’m also not trying to get back to my pre-baby body, although I personally feel pretty damn great in myself. The most important thing is to eat well so I’m having plenty of good fats, not skipping meals and have also started to eat locally sourced, free range eggs to get more easily absorbable omega fats. It was a hard choice to make with my veganism but I feel like this choice to re-introduce eggs is not at odds with my principle of being vegan to opt out of the large-scale and (often) damaging meat and dairy industry.

Skin-to-skin

I was told how powerful skin-to-skin is in increasing milk supply. Jenson doesn’t like snuggling close to my chest during the day as he’s a nosey little man who likes to look out to see what’s going on in the world. So instead we both sleep topless while co-sleeping to get the skin-to-skin benefit during the night.

Expressing

I have tried to express milk to increase my supply but find it a difficult experience. Having to make sure everything is sterile, finding time to sit alone to express and timing it with Jenson’s frequent feeds has proved difficult and I’ve not done this as much as I should. But I have done this where possible.

Seeking help

The best thing I’ve done is sought help from people. I’ve called the La Leche League hotline to get their invaluable help and advice. I’ve been to breastfeeding drop-in clinics. I’ve gone to my parents house to get some rest and a chance to express while they look after Jenson. I’ve spoken to my GP who has referred Jenson for further tests to make sure his slow weight gain isn’t the cause of an underlying health issue. I’ve stayed under the care of my health visitor to get support. I’ve asked friends for help and advice to support me.

I’m getting there

I’m happy to report that Jenson has started to put on weight at a more rapid pace. And I’ve taken steps to help myself feel more in control – I’ve written to the NHS trust to ask them to improve how they treat tongue-tie and have implemented the things above that fit into my life. So I’m not expressing as much as I could, but I’m keeping my sanity and hopefully making gains with lots of skin-to-skin and supplements.

It feels good to write all this to you and share my story a bit. It’s been a long road to get to where we are, but I’m glad I persevered and hope I can help people in the future.

I suppose the biggest advice is give you is that if you’re going through difficulty with breastfeeding, reach out. Get help. And know that things can get better.

Allowed to be me

I stood in the kitchen 3 nights ago and, half-crying, said to my husband “it’s not that I don’t love Jenson – I love him so strongly – but I’d just like a few hours to be me again. To not have my constant companion by my side or be called away from the passions I have to feed or cuddle or hold him. I miss being me.”

Motherhood has been the best thing to happen to me. I can’t express how much I love this little, wonderful being. My love is a force that keeps me smiling when I’ve been up half the night with him or had to sing songs to him for hours to calm him down.

But I miss being me.

I miss just going to a coffee shop and reading or blogging for hours. I miss spending untethered time in the kitchen whipping up cakes and cooking batches of food for the week. I miss going out without being tied down with a backpack full of baby stuff.

The freedom, the focus on me, the ability to do exactly what I want to do.

And here’s where I hear Jenson’s voice of the future – saying “but you chose to have me”. A sentiment I had as a child when I didn’t get my way or the few times my wishes didn’t come first for my parents. And now I get it.

Yes, I did choose to have him. With all my heart and much time spent thinking about whether I did want to become a mother. It was an active choice. But this choice doesn’t take away who I am. My passions. My dreams. Things I just like doing because I just like doing them.

And I’m ok 80% of the time that I’m not where I was anymore. I’m a mum and that means that I am no longer my own. I’m his as much as he is mine. But it doesn’t stop the fact that I’m allowed to be me. I’m allowed to still have my desires and wishes and dreams. I’m allowed to take time for myself.

I’m also incredibly lucky to have a husband who is in this with me 100% and is able to hear me and my needs. He gives me the space to be me, just as I give him the space to be him.

What does this look like?

Gregg gets Wednesday evenings to play football with colleagues at work. I support him to have this time, even if it means that I have to take care of Jenson well into the evening by myself. I’ve also been up for him having nights out with friends and other evenings out to do things he enjoys even if it leaves me alone with a baby who can, as much as he’s adorable, be a challenging little so-and-so.

And Gregg allows me to follow my passion for coaching people who struggle with comfort eating, binge drinking and people pleasing. He takes Jenson out of the house when I have my sessions scheduled with the people I love to work with so I can focus 100% on this work that I feel called to do.

But I know I need more time to just be me without relying on the squeezed little chunks of time I grab for myself. Yes, I get time to coach, but I need time for me. It’s not selfish to take this time. And even if it is selfish, it’s time I need so that I can be a good, patient, loving, kind and generous parent to my son and a good, patient, loving, kind and generous wife to my husband.

So tomorrow (well, today – I’m writing this at 4am now that Jenson has gone to sleep after being up for an hour), I’ve been given a pass by Gregg. The promise that he’ll take Jenson for a good two or three hours so I can just be me. I can get my hair cut, sit in a cafe and read a book or write another blog, post or wander the streets of Brighton without a nappy bag and papoose.

And I think we need to make a regular event of this. Giving each other time so we can be ourselves and have a bit of space to claim back who we are.

I’m allowed to be me. It doesn’t mean that I love my son any less. It means that I’m human with needs of my own. And that’s ok.

Help

I was at a friend’s house yesterday. She’s got a little boy the same age as Jenson and has really hurt her back. She’s in agony and I’ve come over to help her during the day.

I’m not saying this to get brownie points for how awesome I am, I’m sharing this because it’s given me a lovely glimpse into what a gift it is to accept the help of other people.

When she was in the most early agonising moments of her injury, I offered to come over to do what I could do help her and she was reluctant to accept the help. She said she couldn’t accept my help. Like me, she’s a strong, independent and giving person who is more used to being the helper and is uncomfortable needing to lean on other people.

She’s probably even more strong, independent and giving than I am. I’ve practically lived at her house since our boys were born and she has invited Gregg and I over for dinner so often. Honestly, she’s cooked for us more than I have cooked at all since giving birth to Jenson! She’s been super thoughtful in sourcing special breastfeeding remedies for me to help with the troubles I’ve been having and is one of my biggest cheerleaders on my journey as a Mum.

So when she injured her back, I wanted to support her as best I could. And it was, to be honest, really frustrating to have her reject my offers of help due to her discomfort at needing to lean on other people.

My help was a gift I could give back to her in the face of all the kindness she has shown me and I was delighted when she messaged me to take me up on my offer of help.

It was a lovely day. Catching up, talking about our hopes for the boys, dreaming of travels and helping her, here and there, to lift her son or soothe him when he needed a jig around the room.

Helping someone I want to help is a pleasure.

So if I turn this around and think about how I often turn down help because of the discomfort I feel being ‘needy’, I see that I’m depriving people of a chance to feel special, to give back in and to get closer to me as they see me vulnerable and in need of a helping hand.

I’m sure this experience isn’t going to bring about a massive shift in me overnight and I doubt I’ll feel absolutely at ease accepting help going forward. But at least I’ll have a very good example to draw from about how good it feels when someone allows you to help them and I hope it will allow me to say ‘thank you so much, I’d love to accept your help’ more often.

The end of the fourth trimester

Tomorrow my son turns 12 weeks old – I can’t quite believe it. He’s been with us for such a short amount of time but it also seems like he has always existed.

I’ve loved these first twelve weeks because I’ve been following the school of thought that the first three months are the fourth trimester. A continuation of the baby’s time in the womb where the most important thing is bonding with Jenson and helping his transition into the world to be as gentle and smooth as possible.

To do this, I’ve found myself wearing him in a sling for the majority of our trips out of the house, spending restful hours in the bath with him on my chest, co-sleeping and have focused on what makes him seem happy and content. Lots of walking so he can be rocked to sleep close to me in the sling, lots of singing and dancing around the house and lots of feeding at his pace and at his demand.

This style of parenting wasn’t one that I thought I would take. And, for sure, it’s one that focuses more on Jenson and less on my marriage. Even though my husband sleeps in the same bed as us and is 100% present with us when he’s not at work, I miss the closeness we had pre-becoming parents. I’m sure our relationship will get back to where it was over time but I didn’t expect to have less resources, less patience and less energy to show my love to Gregg.

But let’s get back to talking about the fourth trimester! These thoughts about relationships with a baby are probably for another time and another blog post!

As I sit here writing my thoughts about the fourth trimester you, dear friend, I find myself slightly sad that it is coming to an end. I know that this gentle way of being doesn’t have to end but somehow I feel the permission to take things extra slowly and gently diminish as his 12 week anniversary arrives.

I know that 12 weeks is an arbitrary number and am aware that I can continue doing the same thing over the next few months but somehow it doesn’t feel the same.

Because Jenson is going to change. He’s already coming out of his womb-like haze and is interacting more with the world around him. He’s smiling so much, recognises songs I regularly sing to him and can now be distracted by the world around him or even can be stopped crying with a book or something new that I show him.

He’s not going to need as much of the slow and gentle pace that I’ve grown to love.

And I’m aware that I need to prepare him for my return to work in July when his dad will take over as the main carer. I feel an anxiety about having to push Jenson to do things before he’s ready to fit in with my desire to get back to work and his dad’s desire to spend quality time with him.

Making him sleep out of my arms, feed just for nourishment instead of a way of dozing off, get used to me not being around.

So I’m allowing myself to take a moment to feel sad about him growing up and all that this means. But I also remind myself that I can’t control the future and that the best thing I can do to reduce my anxiety is to be present with my son in the moments I have with him now.

And I think of all the moments to look forward to in the future – where I’ll get to hear him giggling for the first time, witness him playing with toys and interacting even more with the world around him.

He’ll soon be sitting up, tasting his first foods, clapping his hands and chances are that he’ll be less reliant on me when July comes around. And if he is still reliant on me when July comes around, I know that we’ll manage.